Dec 24, 2014

Christmas Is War

A few weeks ago our pastor presented Christmas in a way I had never thought of before: Christmas was an all out military invasion intent on delivering humanity from captivity.
The mission was clear, war was declared before the world was made, there will be casualties, but nobody paid a higher price than God.
(You can listen to the message here Pastor Jim Ladd Christmas)

The world was dark and hopeless and Jesus broke through and shone a great light.
But it wasn't that simple.
There was resistance.
A battle ensued and will continue until humanity is delivered.
There are casualties.

Christmas is this light isn't a beautifully decorated tree and sweet songs by the fire.  It isn't perfectly wrapped gifts and a garland dressed mantle.
It is soldiers clad in armor, weapons at the ready, it is small victories and great defeats.  It is death and destruction.
It it blood.
His Father crushed his own son and caused him to suffer in order to make his life an offering for our sins.
Christmas was the initial invasion, and since that moment battles have been raging.
While the battles include pain, fears, trials, and some defeat, the war will be won!

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end."

Away in a manger no crib for a bed our savior, Lord Jesus, the Light that breaks through the darkness,  brings comfort, joy, and peace, and victorious warrior, the one who conquered death on a cross and redeemed the lost, lay down his sweet head.

This song captures this message beautifully.

This Is War Dustin Kensrue

Dec 18, 2014

Break the crayons, mix up the alphabet, and run with scissors.

I have learned a lot since starting my job at an elementary school about a year an a half ago.  I have learned how to teach, how to deal with frustrating little children, and so much more.  Here are some lessons for new moms, old moms, and well just about everyone.

Break the Crayons.  This goes against everything in you.  You get the 64 crayon box set and then one breaks.  Toss it?  Or allow that half crayon to fall to the bottom of the crayon box?  Difficult question.
I say "break all the crayons".

For preschoolers: The smaller crayon actually fits little fingers better and helps them practice pincher strength and fine motor skills.  I didn't make this up.  It is actually a strategy used by a writing program called Handwritting Without Tears.  Kids learn to hold crayons that are tiny so that they don't fist grab a crayon and carry over that grip with a pencil.

For big kids: Broken crayons color just as well as the long, perfect ones.  We need to focus less on what looks good and more on what is functional or what works for us.  For years I tossed the broken, dirty, paper torn crayons when the boys brought them home at the end of the school year.  Then I realized they don't care if the box of crayons is rag-tag.  They all color their own color regardless of size and outward cleanliness.  We don't need to be perfect, and neither does our toolbox.  The meal doesn't need to be perfect, the house, the car, the kids, the gifts, the outward appearance.  In one way or another we are all broken crayons and we are still valuable, still full of color and leave a lasting mark on those we encounter.

Mix up the Alphabet.

For preschoolers: A, B, C, D, E, F, G,.... now I know my ABC's next time won't you sing with me.  No, next time I'm going to show you a G out of the blue and hope that you recognize the G on its own without always following F and coming before H.
Sure there is a need for the order of the alphabet, thus alphabetizing.  But short of filing, you really don't need the alphabet in order!
So many kids struggle with letter recognition when not given the opportunity to sing the song.  Mixing it up allows for kids to learn the letters themselves and spares them a karaoke show when trying to remember the letter K.

For big kids: There is a place for order in our lives but sometimes the greatest joys and greatest learning experiences come from the random, out of order experiences.  Traditions broken, expectations crushed, and plans thwarted are all opportunities for something new.  Allow yourself to see a G and appreciate the "G" for "jjjjj like George and Giraffe" and the "gggg like golf and garage".  It is actually ok to mix things up, try something new and maybe even do it all backwards!

Run, even with scissors:

For preschoolers: kids have energy.  They need to run and jump and climb and probably fall.  They will learn that running sometimes results in falling, and sometimes they will get a scraped knee or road rash on their hands.  Then they can decide if the fall and the associated wounds are worth the joy of running.  If we never let them run for fear of falling, they will not know what to do when they take a tumble.
The other day a little friend of mine was playing on a slippery playground when he bumped in to another kid and fell down.  Knees dirty.  Oh my goodness. You would have thought he broke a leg.  He cried for 10 minutes.  10 long, noisy minutes, because his jeans were dirty.  Another boy 2 days earlier fall into a mud puddle, and I mean inches deep mud puddle.  He was soaking wet, covered in water and dirt from shoe to sleeve.  I panicked and ran over to him prepared to calm him down and as I was asking if he had spare clothes in his bag or if he wanted to go to the nurse for a change of clothes he looked at me and said "I'm ok, can I go play now?"
Teach the kids to hold their kid size safety scissors blades down, so if they do trip in fall with them they won't poke an eye out.

For big kids: Just run.  Run even if you look silly running, even if you are slow, if you have to stop and take a break, don't let the fear of falling, or failing keep you from living life to the fullest.  Take risks, just be sure to keep the scissors pointed down, so if you do fall you won't be fatally wounded because big kid scissors do not have a rounded ends.



Dec 17, 2014

Everyday at 8:35 a thunderous roar approaches my classroom, like a tornado rolling through, or maybe a pack of motorcycles.  But it is neither, it is simply my kindergarten students coming out for their reading and math groups.  My coworker refers to our early morning dose of kindergarteners as a "slap in the face".  They come out like a bull out of the shoot.  They are wild.
And then they sit down and I ask them to write their name, or point to the letter "A" and then suddenly they go silent.  What happen to their voices?
The next 40 minutes are the most painful of my day.  Not because kindergarteners are particularly annoying, but because THESE particular kids are the least exposed kids I have ever met.  Some don't know their name, most don't know more than 3 letters in the alphabet (thankfully we can usually count on them knowing X and 0), one kid told me his name was "Nugget" (thankfully it is not) and forget counting, holding a pencil and attempting to differentiate between a circle and a square.  40 minutes may as well be 40 hours because every single task I give these kids is painfully tedious.
Because of this I typically say "I don't like kindergarteners".

Then....I have 15 minutes of recess duty with 24 kindergarteners and I remember that I actually love kindergarteners, I just don't like teaching them.  Kindergarteners have the best stories ever!

Monday M came busting out of class to tell me she went to church the night before.  Here is the conversation:

Me: oh did you sing songs at church?
M: nope, I WATCHED A PLAAAAAAAAY.
Me: so fun!  What was the play about?
M: JEEEEESSSSSSUUUUS
Me: what about Jesus?
M: well Jesus was a FULL GROWN MAN and he did NOT like Mary.  Then Mary said "where is my scarf? Because Jesus was crying and needed a scarf.

The birth of Jesus according to a kindergartener.


Dec 14, 2014

A few years ago, while living in Germany, I was given the amazing privilege of serving a dear friend by being a participant on her "cancer team".  This was the team of people who brought meals, gave rides to her son, donated money to pay for a house-keeper, took her to appointments and prayed for healing.  Since we all know I can't bring people meals, I volunteered some of my time taking her to appointments.
There were numerous visits to the clinic and hours spent waiting for her turn for x-rays, blood tests, chemo treatments, and psychology visits.  There was a lot of waiting.  There was a lot of time for me to get to know her more and more importantly for me to see her shine.
She sat in the waiting room of the chemo area as if she were a mere visitor and every one else were patients.  She talked to people, gave them her number, and told them about her healer, the one found not in tubes or pills but in the power of the one we call Jesus.
I remember her asking me and those around her how we were all doing, she would counsel us and pray for us....in the midst of her very own struggle.  She was truly a light to all those sitting in darkness!
My dear friend was diagnosed with a cancer that didn't have any receptors (this is bad), she also tested positive for the "cancer gene".  She had a double mastectomy, chemo, and radiation, followed by a full hysterectomy.  The latter was an attempt to give this genetic cancer less stuff to go after.  Shortly after she completed her final radiation treatments she fell and shattered both of her feet, this required surgery and some time in a wheel chair as she recovered and gained strength to walk again.  Just when her health seemed to be returning, a spot was found on her lung, it was determined to be breast cancer metastasized.  She had lung surgery to remove the cancer and weeks later had a grand maul seizure that sent her into the hospital where doctors found she had a cancerous brain tumor.
Today she is laying in a hospital bed with cancer in her liver, brain and lungs.  Her lungs are trying to give out on her, she struggles to breath, and her strength in waining.
I have been praying for her without ceasing.  I don't know what I'm praying for.  Sometimes I pray for God to just take her home.  Other times I'm asking him to help her hold on until Christmas.  I know that God can choose to keep her on this earth, but at this point everything we see with earthly eyes are pointing to that time here not being very long.
When my friend was first diagnosed with cancer she said that her one prayer was that God would be made known through this.  I know he is so pleased with how she ran this race.  She fought the good fight even when it seemed fruitless.  And she will be healed, either on earth or in heaven.
I'm a member of a private Facebook group that she started to keep her friends and family updated along the journey.  She posted pictures of her losing her hair, during treatments, trying on wigs, and testing out bras with fake boobs.  She posted videos of her dancing because even in a trial one can find joy in Christ.  She wrote about feeling low and feeling good.  She talked about the really weird cancery stuff that most people don't share.  She posted a photo of her twice her size due to swelling, she showed off her scars from brain surgery and more often than anything else she praised God for the people who love her, for the strength she was able to muster, and for the life she was given.
As I pull up her Facebook group, I hold my breathe, I am so afraid that the words of her passing will soon appear on the page.
Her fight will be over, the victory will not be one seen on earth, and she will leave behind hundreds of people who diligently prayed for her and loved her and showered her with blessings.  She'll also leave behind a sweet boy just 11 years old, and a devoted husband who loves her so dearly.
She will leave behind a world full of sorrow and pain.  She will leave behind suffering, loneliness, grief, injustice and pride.  She will leave behind the body that she has fought against for the past 4 years.
She will breath a breathe so full and deep that it overwhelms her, she will run, she will laugh, she will smile the contagious smile, and she will be free.  She will stand before the throne of her Lord and Savior and I know more than I have known this about any other.... her king will say "well done, well done my good and faithful servant".  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Cor 13:12)
I don't know the doctor's prognosis or the timeline she has been given, but I know that her life, until her very last breathe is in His hands.

Dec 11, 2014

Last night Matt told me I had until the end of this week to post something on my blog.
I realize it has been quite awhile since I've had the time and/or inspiration to write.  I've written numerous blogs in my head.
There is the one dedicated to the hilarious things that my students say like the kid who told me this: "I'm going to put this coat in the lost and fountain"
or the student who said this:
Teacher: Who is in charge of this group?
Student: Santa.  Santa is in-charge.

And then there was the blog about the worse day of work ever.  That was the day when two students showed up at school for the first time in their lives at ages 7 and 9.  They have been "lost" in the system, living in unhealthy conditions and had limited exposure to anyone other than their deadbeat parents.  They were hoarding food in the lunch room, don't know how to put on a coat, use a computer or hold a pencil.  They both had fevers of over 100 degrees, were coughing incesantly and put through hours of testing to determine their academic grade level....and they persevered.  The same day that the Sheriff arrived at school to investigate a 1st grade boy with visible bruising from his mom's boyfriend who beat him the night before.

There was a blog about our Thanksgiving trip to Florida.  We had so much fun relaxing on the beach, spending time with our family, and spending time together.  It was our first real getaway since Matt came home and it was a very special time for so many reasons.  The boys fished from the beach, I laid in the sun, Matt went golfing, I laid in the sun, we went for walks on the beach, I snuggled with my niece, Matt went fishing on a charter boat, I laid in the sun, and we ate delicious food.  Matt and Eli slept out on the upper balcony one night under the stars with the sounds of waves as a lullaby.  Matt and I coerced...or encouraged our family to run with us in a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.  His dad, step-mom, brother, Eli and Matt and I all got up early Thanksgiving morning to run a 5k.  We had a great time on the run and at the little after party at the finish line.  The boys played Gin Rummy with their great grandparents, Gabe cooked, the boys did the dinner dishes a few nights, we watched movies, threw things at the TV when the Niners failed to play offense against those pesky Seahawks, and we were truly thankful for our time together, our time with family and the blessing of spending a week on the beach in Florida.

There was the blog about our advent lesson that spoke to my heart.  We talked about how Joseph must have felt when the Angel came to him and said "hey um so Mary....she's already pregnant but go ahead and marry her because she is going to give birth to the Savior, the long awaited Messiah.  You're good with that right?"  How did he feel?  Who knows?  But if I were him I would have been a little disappointed.  My 5 year plan did not include my not-yet wife getting pregnant before I "knew her" (I love that description).  God interrupted Joseph's life.  He gave him a new path. Not just a little detour but a very big one.  Often when God interrupts our plan, we don't realize that the new path he has for us may lead us into a place that we couldn't have ever imagined going on our own.  A better plan.  A life changing, history making, plan.

I could also write about the fact that I have been home from Florida for over a week and still haven't really gone grocery shopping, or that I picked up 1/4 of a cow the other day and now my kids are panicking because they think we can't eat anything else but steak, roast, and ground beef until Bessie is gone, or I could write about how darn awesome my house looks when it is all shiny and bedazzled with Christmas loveliness.

But instead I'll write about this:
Today I got a text from my babysitter asking what time she needed to be at my house tomorrow to watch the boys so Matt and I could go to his work shindig.  I text Matt and asked him the same question to which he responded "the party is tonight...we need to leave in an hour".
So, I didn't go to the party.
He headed off looking all dapper, I dropped Eli off at youth group, and I took Gabe, and a laptop to Panera.  We had dinner together and then he played on the computer, and we did our advent lesson for the night and I did some Christmas shopping on the iPad.  At least 4 times he looked up from his dinner, dessert or computer and said "mom, thanks for bringing me here tonight" and once he left his work station and curled up next to me to give me a hug.  And for that moment, all was right in the world.
The kids with crappy parents, the laundry, the lack of food in the house, missing the party, having to leave the house on a windy wet night to take Eli to church when I'd rather be at home....all far from my mind as this kiddo was genuinely so happy that I forced him to join me at Panera instead of leaving him home, so we could have some soup and sandwiches, some laughter, some learning and most of all a sweet memory of that one time that just mom and Gabe went to Panera just because.


Nov 11, 2014

Ohhhh Canada....

Yesterday Matt and I had a 9 hour date.
I kept track of how many hours it was because it was simply awesome to spend the whole evening on a date with my awesome hubby.....and because I had to pay a babysitter at the end of the night.
The date was quintessentially "us".
We spent an hour in traffic talking about what we hope for in the next chapter of our life (life after the army), grabbed tacos at a taco truck in SoDo (and I didn't get food poisoning) and then headed to a local pub to hang out with a few hundred other fans getting ready to go to the Sounders match.
We decided to grab a beer before heading in to the stadium.  Since I'm so youthful, upon ordering a beer, the bartender asked to see my ID (ok so she was asking for everyone's).  I handed her my Military ID card.  On one side is my picture and all sorts of information about Matt's branch of service, rank, and my relationship to him, and on the back is my date of birth, fake weight and other description information.
The bartender studied the card, looked up at me, looked back at my ID and then asked me "are you Canadian?"
Holy cow!  How in the world did she guess that?  I mean, my dad was born in Canada and his dad was born, raised and died in Canada but I never imagined that my very thin Canadian blood line would be so obvious.  I barely spoke to her but surely I didn't have a French or Northern accent and never once did I say "eh?"  I was shocked.
So I answered "yes I am part Canadian.  How did you know?"
She replied "well your ID says you have a sponsor I figured you must be Canadian"

Oh dear........

I started to try to explain to her that Matt is in the Army and therefore the "sponsor" of my benefits but it seemed a little too confusing for her and a line was forming behind me so I decided to just let this one go.  As long as sponsored Canadians were allowed to get beer, I suppose it doesn't really matter what it means.
I suppose "sponsor" has a very different meaning in the lives of a military family eh?

Nov 9, 2014

Prayer Changes a Nation?

I read this article today and thought it was simply awesome and inspiring.

There are often times that I look at our country and simply shake my head.  I wonder what will become of this Nation? What will America be when my kids are my age?
It is easy to be disheartened, it is easy to give up and say "well there she goes".  But that may not be God's plan for our country.
Germany marked the 25th anniversary of the Wall coming down this weekend.  What a huge event in the lives of so many Germans and a major turning point in our world!
On June 12, 1987 then President Ronald Reagan called out Mikhail Gorbachev, the Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, in his famous speech in Berlin.  Reagan emfatically commanded Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!"  While the speech may have had some impact, it wasn't until two years later on November 9, 1989 that the wall fell.  I have seen a 30 second clip of Reagan's speech numerous times and I often associate the fall falling with Reagan's bold demands.  While I realize much more was going on than a well delivered speech by a famous American, I never knew this little piece of history:

How prayers helped end the Cold War

I was lucky enough to visit Berlin twice while we were stationed in Germany and also a few towns located in the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany).  I visited many of the infamous sites related to WW2 and the Cold War, I walked along the lines where the Wall formerly stood and tried to envision life on the Eastern side of Berlin.  I wish I would have learned a little about the St Nicholas church in Leipzig earlier ....that would have been I would have loved to visit!

If prayer can bring down the Wall, the Soviet Union, put an end to the Cold War and eventually reunite Germany..... do not lose hope in what prayer can do here in America.

Daniel's prayer (Daniel 2:20-22) 

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.

Nov 8, 2014

I share a birth month with a very dear friend of mine.  In honor of her birthday in a few days, I feel compelled to write about her here.

Allison.

When I first met her, I absolutely didn't "get" her.  While she didn't rub me wrong, I also didn't get an overwhelming vibe that I had just met someone who needed to be in my life for the long haul.  She was mysterious and my friend-radar was confused.  I remember talking to another friend about not really knowing how to read Allison.  My friend claimed that the most likely explanation for my first impressions of Allison was that "she is from Texas."  Seriously, one of the funniest behavioral explanations that I have heard.  Anyway, I assumed we would be friendly neighbors, but probably not friends.

Years have gone by since I first met her while we were walking home to our apartments on Jackson Street following a bible study.  We are no longer neighbors, but most definitely friends.  We were divinely placed into a bible study group together and that set the stage for me to get to know this amazing woman and for her to add so much wisdom, inspiration, encouragement, laughter, and adventure to my life.

Allison is genuine.  She doesn't hide how she feels, she listens, she has something really important to say when she speaks, she laughs, she lives minimally, loves deeply, and prays faithfully.  She is probably the most flexible, easygoing person I have ever met it my life.  She is one of those Army wives who hits the ground running....she doesn't have a "getting settled" period she just goes, embraces, finds her place and brings others along with her.

Al does it all.  She wakes up early, has her coffee and and spends some time on a devotion, she makes some gourmet, healthy, breakfast for her three little girls, then sews a friend a skirt, runs 10 or so miles, meets friends in the park so the kids can play, home-schools the kids, prepares dinner and makes a few extra meals to give to those in need, and makes sure that is all taken care of in time to whip up lunch.  All the while she is smiling.  The kids argue or lose a shoe or require a princess wand to fix a boo-boo and Allison takes it all in stride.  If she is frustrated, nobody would know it.  She keeps her cool, her voice is calm, she does not unravel easily.

Maybe that isn't her everyday routine, somedays she may skip making the skirt and go straight to the run or a few hours doing yoga on a SUP.

She is fashionable and frugal, she has fine taste but also enjoys simplicity.
She is wise, so very wise.
She is up for adventure.
Allison is talented and beautiful and joy flows from her.
Those who know Allison, love her, and are blessed to have her in their life.
I am blessed to call her friend.


Sometimes the people who come to mean the most to you, the ones who you learn the most from, and laugh the hardest with are the ones that are the most unexpected.  I mean really, a chic from Texas?  Who would have thought?  God did.  I love that each of my friends are so unique in their personalities, talents and passions and they each bring a new twist to my life.

Allison Happy Birthday.  Praying that your day, and this coming year are blessed, filled with joy and love and adventure!





Nov 3, 2014

A Photo Essay of My Birthday

This year my birthday fell on a Saturday.  Which is awesome!  Birthday's should always fall on the weekend.  Who needs work to get in the way of your celebration?  Not me.  

Even though I wasn't at work on my actual birthday, my co-workers went crazy overboard and threw me quite the shin-dig.  When I arrived at work, my space was decorated, desk covered with flowers, balloons and gifts, and there was a smorgasbord of delicious breakfast items and a fresh cup of joe all waiting for me.  They chose "princess" plates and decor....not because of my attitude (or maybe it was) but because of a silly comment one of my students made a few weeks ago about me living in a castle.  The lovely ladies I work with spoiled me rotten!

And when I got home from work, I was greeted by this:

Mom and dad painting!  Well they were still taping off stripes at this point but by afternoon of my birthday this is the magic that happened:

I slept in on the morning of my birthday and upon making my way downstairs I ran into this kid:

Matt went out for a run earlier in the morning and Eli decided to join him on his bike.  He grabbed his wallet and purchased these beautiful flowers for me with his own money, and then rode home on his bike with them.  Not only am I impressed that he spent his own money for flowers for me, I'm in awe that anyone can ride a bike with flowers.

After a yummy brunch, we headed to downtown Tacoma where these guys and my parents followed me around a bunch of antique/junk shops....and they didn't complain once!  I definitely need to return to those shops...very cool stuff up there.

After perusing dusty old gems we drove along the beautiful Ruston Way in N. Tacoma and settled in at Anthony's at Point Defiance for a great view and tasty dinner compliments of these two:

And attempted a family photo.....


then ditched the kids for a selfie...


We came back to the house for cupcakes and I opened more gifts.
Turns out I'm kind of a princess....at least I feel spoiled like one!

Good news for my future travel ventures, this girl got a waterproof camera!  Let's hope that I have another encounter with dolphins so I can capture it!

It was a happy birthday!






Oct 29, 2014

A few weeks ago I caught Gabe in one lie right after another.  I was so frustrated with him and his tendency to deny the truth regardless of the evidence presented against him.  I text Matt and told him what was going on.  He suggested Gabe do a little research on liars and theives.
In addition to some other consequences, Gabe was required to look up two stories in the Bible that talk about lying and stealing.  He read the passages, wrote a summary and then answered some questions about the passage and about his own circumstances.  It was a consequence or punishment as he hates writing, and it was also an open door to talk about why he lies, who he is hurting and what lying does to his reputation.

Excellent call Matt!  It proved to be a great way to see what God says about and how he deals with people with the same issues that Gabe is struggling with.

Last week I received an email from Gabe's teacher about some social behavior issues Gabe is having in class.  There were a few disrespectful things he has said or done to his peers but the bigger issue seemed to be that his peers consider him a liar.  He has gained a reputation for denying any accusations that are brought against him, even when others can vouch for the accusations being true.

I was so frustrated with Gabe, just sad that he is willing to hurt others and to be burdened by lies in order to attempt to avoid consequences for his behavior.  Gabe had a good chat with his teacher and actually owned up to some of the accusations, and then he talked with Matt and I at home as well.

The following morning I was getting ready for work and Paul came to my mind.  Paul was Saul, a man who knowingly, willingly killed Christians because he thought their beliefs were wrong.  Saul's story doesn't end there, he turned his life around.  He had a powerful encounter with God on a dusty road and become the person he had spent much of his early years killing.  He became a follower of Christ.  And is wasn't enough to just change his thinking, he hit the road to tell everyone about the gospel.

I thought about how Gabe can stop the lying now, and change his reputation.

Over breakfast that morning I shared Paul's story with Gabe.  He had heard about Paul before, but this  time we were talking about Paul as his story can relate to Gabe's, if Gabe chooses.

Today was conference day for Gabe.  He is doing great academically!  We are so thankful he is in the TAG program and given this opportunity to learn in new ways, and be challenged to push himself harder and think deeper.
After the short blurb on his academic levels the teacher switched to talk about the social issues.  She said she had a great conversation with Gabe at school, she really felt he was open and honest with her and now that is all in the past.  She said she was a firm believer in moving on and starting fresh.

I assured her that we are going to keep working on honestly and accountability at home and I mentioned that we also talked about a great example of someone who can change his reputation.

Gabe looked up at me and said "yah, Saul to Paul".
Without the slightest pause his teacher said "he is probably the best example of someone who made a decision to change his life and was able to shake off his former reputation".  She went on to talk about how people feared Paul because of his former actions, but all of that can change.

I leaned over to Gabe and said "and lets not forget about Barnabas".

See Paul wanted to jump in to the missionary journey and tell the world about the gospel, but some disciples didn't trust him because of who he used to be.
Then there was one guy, Barnabas, who looked at Paul and said "ya, I'll vouch for this guy, he can come"

I wanted to teach Gabe that when he makes true changes in his behaviors his friends will see it and they can vouch for him, they can stand up for him and speak on his behalf.  I want him to know that he isn't alone, in his class he has a few good friends who can vouch for him when he makes the right choice.

His teacher looked at Gabe in the eyes and said "Gabe, I'll be your Barnabas.  I'll be the one.  I will stand up for you because I believe you are changing".

Joy filled my heart when she spoke those words.

So I'd say it was a good conference.

Oct 26, 2014

Oh yah...I have a wife...and kids

Bringing a family back together after an long time a part is much more challenging than the civilian type person can probably imagine.

As I was planning an outfit and grocery shopping for the big homecoming I found it more difficult than it should be to answer the simple question "what does Matt like?"
I don't know. 
I can't remember.
It has been a while since he complimented an outfit I was wearing.  It has been a while since he has seen me in an "outfit".  Its not like the kids are like "hey mom you look cute, I'm going to take a picture of you and send it to dad".  So short of the photos of the boys and I at sporting events this summer...I don't think he has seen an outfit since he left!  
I know some of his favorite snacks, but some things have changed and he likes different things now.  He is trying really hard to live healthier so does that mean no chips?  No Tiramisu? Its so confusing.

We went on our first date (aside from the pants incident) yesterday.  We went to a Sounders game and then out to dinner.  It was great to spend the day together.  We shared stories of the past 6 months.  Tough ones, like the day I had to put our cat to sleep, and fun ones like the day the two A's and I went SUP and saw a ton of dolphins, and driving through Jackson, WY and camping in the rain.  We talked about the future and dreams, we laughed at each other, ran in the rain, and for a moment it would have seemed like there wasn't a gaping whole of 6 missing months in our lives.

And then today Matt left the house for a run without me.  Without me!  OK, so I wasn't home at the time but we talked about running together today.  I had an errand to run and when I got back home he was gone.  It was sunny, chilly and beautiful outside.  The perfect day for a run.  As I walked in the door the boys said "dad just left for a run".  I was pretty irritated.  I put on my running clothes, not willing to let the ditching take away my chance for a good run and headed out.

When I got back Matt said "it stopped raining and was sunny so I went for a run".
I gave him my glare that said "pardon me, no yo intiendo"
About 20 minutes later he came down stairs and said...and I really am quoting him "sorry about leaving you, I forgot I had a wife"
Or maybe I'm not quoting him.  Maybe this is me making up things again...
I think he actually said 'I'm sorry, I'm still getting used to thinking about someone more than myself"

I accepted his apology, but I'm totally going to put a time limit on this very believable excuse.  Like maybe another week.
Then I said "listen for the boys, they are in the back yard playing, I'm getting in the shower"

I get out of the shower and say "where are the boys?"
To which he replies "I don't know they are gone."

Oh ya he was supposed to be paying attention to the boys.

It isn't necessarily about the run or listening for the boys while I was in the shower.  It could be a dozen different stories and likely will be at least a few more.  Its getting used to each other being more present in the other's life.  
It is different, it is new, and we are still working through it all.

Oct 23, 2014

Even in the midst of celebration you're gonna have a bad day.
I went to bed super grumpy last night.
Two reasons: Matt doesn't want new jeans and I'm a little crazy.
Matt has 5 pair of jeans.  This is weird for me to start off with because I have about 15 (cut me some slack I have bootcut, skinny, black, blue, dark blue).  2 of those pairs of jeans are acid wash.  Not the new trendy acid wash, I'm talking straight out of 1989 acid wash.  Two others are really nice and happen to be brand new - his mom bought them for him in Feb because she too was irritated by the acid wash, tattered jeans he was sporting. The other pair is fine, not great, but not acid wash.  So until the jeans purchase with his mom, the man looked the fool in jeans.
Matt comes home from deployment and he doesn't have quite the same physique he did before....by a lot.  Picture a hobo holding up pants that are 2 sizes too big with a dog leash.  So ridiculous. So when he was at the mall the other day, I told him to buy 2 pair of jeans.  He didn't feel like it, so he came home with a leather case for his cell phone.  Seriously?  Leather case for his phone.  His phone is dressed better than he is.
After seeing that his pants were literally pegged at the waist, I decided to take things into my own hands and took him shopping last night.  We get to the mall and he declares he doesn't want jeans.  Ok, we came to the mall for the sole purpose of buying jeans and now he tells me he doesn't want them?  I coerce him toward a store that carries the exact jeans he is wearing (a style we know he likes) and upon arrival at the store, and selecting the exact jeans he is wearing but a size smaller he scoffs at the price tag and declares he will not pay $60 for a pair of jeans.  I almost....almost blurted out "$60?  I've totally paid more for jeans" then decided that wasn't information I really needed to reveal.  So off we go to a store that will have cheeper jeans, however a store that he doesn't own a a pair of jeans from so he is going to need to try something on.  And he refuses.  Then when I gave him the glare that would make Superman cry. He succombed to my shopping superpowers and went into the fitting room with 2 different styles.  He came out, spun, went back in, put the jeans back and said "I'm not buying jeans".
And in my head I think I said "and I'm not going to be happy with you until you do".
The kids were at church, we skipped out to have a "date night" jeans shopping.  His reward for jeans shopping was going to be a cold one at the pub inside the mall.  He got a cold one...a cold beer and a cold shoulder because I was pissed.
Needless to say, I went to bed angry.

I have this amazing ability to spin something really quite simple into something super complex or something innocent into a personal attack, while sleeping.
Aside from the jeans thing, I was slightly irritated over something ridiculously small last night when I went to bed.  Like really, ridiculously minute in the grand scheme of life, but by the time I woke up this morning I had turned that mole hill into a mountain!  I'm not talking about exaggerating an issue, I'm talking about making up an entirely new one.
For example: lets say I'm the last one to get an invitation to some event and a little hurt about it.  I have the power to create a story in my head that there was a big event and I wasn't invited at all.  Then I take it to another level and have a dreamed up confrontation fight and then I rally people on my side and I storm off angry and hurt and everyone feels bad for me.... all while sleeping.  A big fat dose of crazy.  I admit it.

So with the pants and the made-up problem stemming from a real life pothole.....I woke up grumpy.
Not good. Never good.

Gabe woke up late, his pants were too tight (seriously with the pants issue again?) and he hadn't cleaned out his lunch box from the day before so everything needed to be dumped, packed and he was already running late.  So he got grumpy real fast.
There were raised voices.
Mine.
Gabe stormed out of the house to wait for the bus and a few moments later I heard the door open and close.  I called out his name and there was no answer.  I peeked out the door and I found my sweet Eli, standing outside with Gabe, waiting with him for his short bus.
I told Eli is was nice of him to wait with Gabe and I asked why he did it.  His response..."because it seemed like he was having a bad day, so I thought I should wait with him".
My heart....so full.

Moments later I get an email from Gabe's teacher explaining he was having problems with his peers in class.  My heart sank.  I know this kid has some social issues....it is so hard to parent that.  I can teach him how to be friendly, kind, open, and fun....but I can't make him be any of those things.

The drive to work was tear filled as I pondered Gabe's struggle with friendship and cooperation, and then I arrived at school and got waived down by a super sweet little student who, in the most adorable way possible, told me that Raymond puked.  Yay.

I'm mad at my husband, I'm irritated with the other semi-fake situation, Gabe is struggling, the lady on the radio is dating a married man and thinks its ok, and now Raymond pukes.

There are going to be bad days.....even during a time when everything is supposed to be grand.  The reality is, there are going to be bad days.

Matt and I worked through the pants issue. He understands my pants perspective and is now the proud new owner of two well fitted pairs of dungarees, Gabe had a good meeting with his teacher and we are looking toward some steps to making his social aspect of school become more successful and Raymond went home after puking his way from the ball shed to the front office.  As for the lady that thinks dating married men is ok, well I'll just keep praying for her twisted soul.

Tomorrow is a new day.  I truly hope everyone has well fitting pants and I don't make up some drama while sleeping.


Oct 20, 2014

Matt was off Saturday through Monday and will return to work tomorrow.  He won't be doing his actual job quite yet, he will spend the next few weeks in-processing (fancy word for paperwork, briefs and meetings) and then get back to his unit in November to start to put things back together.

I was prepared for just about anything this past weekend: Matt feeling overwhelmed, the kids' feelings being hurt if Matt didn't want to spend every single moment with them or play, watch or do all the things they wanted him to.  I was prepared for emotional breakdowns, disappointment, and moments of forgetting that our family dynamic has changed.  I was prepared for Matt to be so excited to be back in the land of his electronic toys and tv and high speed internet that he forgets about the 3 humans begging for his time.  I really was prepared for just about everything.

I'm so happy to report that there was none of that.

I did freak out a little when I woke up in bed scantily clad and thought one of the boys had climbed into bed with me.  The horror....then I remembered it was Matt in bed with me and it was perfectly fine that I wasn't wearing long-sleeved footy jams.

Matt has been so gracious with his time.  He has made a conscious effort to balance his own desires with the desires others have for him.  He has battled sleep deprivation and jet-lag to spend more time with us and he hasn't freaked out yet about the boys fighting or doing any of the other annoying things that kids do.

So far the reentry has been smooth, and sweet, and I hope I remember the tender moments that I've witnessed between Matt and the boys forever.

I walked out of the room the other night and found Gabe and Matt sitting on the couch pretty close.  Gabe was laying his head on Matt's shoulder and they were hand in hand..... so precious.
During prayers at night the kids each spent time telling Matt how happy they were for him to be home, how much they missed him, and continue to make lists of things they want to do with him.

As we head in to this week we have soccer games, concerts, birthday parties, and church related events.  There is no time to transition, we are just thrown back into life.  Just like that.  As if nothing has changed and no time has passed and yet so much has.

I've probably never looked forward to getting off work and the weekend as I do right now!  My brain feels like it may explode with all the stories I want to tell, the things I want to do, the questions I have and the plans I want to make with Matt.

There is a lot of smiles and love and laughter in our home.  Busy or not, too little time...doesn't matter.  We are so blessed to have Matt home.

Oct 19, 2014

The Last Night

** This post was written the night before Matt came home but then I got locked out of my account and couldn't post until today**

Tonight is our last night before Matt comes home.  It is a night of celebration and mourning.

I mourn the loss of this season of our lives being "the boys and I".  The summer of adventures we shared, the times that we rallied as a team to make things happen, that we lifted each other up when we needed it most and laughed, and cried, and rose above challenges.  These are memories that I treasure so dearly.

I mourn the loss of the season of blessings.  Oh how we were so blessed throughout this deployment. The genorosity of others leaves me speechless...even today as I received a "welcome home" gift from a friend.  I cannot stop the tears from falling as I think of this gift and the many other acts of kindness, notes in the mail or via text or email, and the number of people who poured into the lives of myself and the boys.
It isn't the gift or act itself that I will miss, although there were some awesome gifts, I will miss witnessing first hand the sacrificial, amazing love of my friends and family who tried to fill me up with joy in a potentially dark time. There truly are not words to express the gratitude that fills my heart.  Each person who bestowed love, and generosity upon us will forever be etched in my heart.

I mourn the loss of the freedom I had to just do what I want without regard to someone else's opinion or schedule.  I''ll miss taking up the whole bed, Fantasy Football Free Sundays, not fearing for my life when I get up in the middle of the night to pee and just as I'm almost to the toilet realizing the toilet seat has been returned to its upright and locked position.  I'll miss quiet hours and a clean house.  I'll miss morning and night time texts from Matt, I'll miss reading notes from him that articulate his feelings for me in a way that comes across so differently and permanent and beautiful than when spoken.

We toasted with cupcakes.
We raised our cupcake and I thanked the boys for a fabulous 6+ months, thanked God for his protection, and we said farewell to this chapter of our lives.....and we celebrated!

We celebrate having this person we all love so dearly back in our lives.  We celebrate that he is no longer living in a container, plopped in the middle of a war zone.  We celebrate that we have access to talk to him, hold him, love him any time we want.  The boys are excited to watch movies and play games with their favorite partner.  They look forward to cuddling and laughing and to showing off their new abilities and skills.
I celebrate that I no longer have to make the tough decisions on my own, that I have a partner to tag when I no longer want to be "it".  I celebrate the feeling of looking into the eyes of the other person who makes me feel complete.  I celebrate that he will know my mood without me speaking a word, and that he will be here when things get dicey.
I look forward to dates and laughter...we have so much fun together.

I celebrate an end to a journey that went well.  I celebrate that we walk away feeling that we did this well.  And knowing that we could do this again....if we absolutely had too, but pray that God keeps us together for a long time.

Memorial stones were left on an altar when the Israelites crossed over the Jordan and into the promiced land.  Stones to remind those that came after of all that God had brought them through.  These stones are a reminder to celebrate the success, mourn the loss, and bless the Lord for his providence.

I need to get some stones.



Sep 24, 2014

Prayer

Matt wakes me up almost every morning.  He sends his first text right around 6am and then texts me incessantly until I wake up and respond.  Even on Saturday when he forgets that some people don't have to get up and go to work on Saturday.  It is truly one of the best parts of my day.
Yesterday was no different.  My phone was firing away text after text and even though I shoved the phone under my covers, I could still hear it going off.  When I finally looked at the phone through my sleepy, squinted eyes, I saw that the first text was not from Matt, it was from a friend of our family.  Since 6am texts usually only come from Matt, my interest was peaked.
The friend was writing to tell me Matt was on his heart and in his prayers today.  With the chaos that is filling the middle east these days he felt compelled to remind me that he is praying for Matt and told me to let him know if he needs to "intensify his prayers" if Matt's location or status changes.  I chuckled about his intensity of prayer remark.  I replied "no need to up the threatcon level, prayer intensity can remain at code orange".


Anyone remember Bush's color coded terror threat level chart?  Am I the only one considering a new and improved "Prayer Intensity Chart"?

Later that morning I sent Matt a message, letting him know that our friend was praying for him.  Matt's response forced tiny drops of rain to flow slowly from my eyes. He said "that is nice of him, I have not once felt down here...and I can only attribute that to those like you and him who keep me in their thoughts and pray for me".
If at ever you think that your prayers don't matter, think again.  To spend 180 days away from family and the comforts of home and to be in an environment where life is truly in danger and to still be able to say "I have not once felt down here" is testimony to the power of prayers lifted up on his behalf.
So thank you to all who have prayed over Matt.  He has truly been touched by your prayers.

Sep 23, 2014

Supermom!


Eli: mom, you left something in my backpack.
Mom: huh?  I haven't put anything in your backpack.
Eli: well it was sure in there.
Mom: what was it?
Eli: well, when I was changing into my soccer clothes after school your underwear fell out of my bag.
Mom: ............................................. THIS BROADCAST HAS BEEN INTERRUPTED BECAUSE SUPERMOM JUST DIED OF EMBARRASSMENT.

Yep.  I'm the mom that stopped using dryer sheets because it is trendy and now my underwear is getting stuck to Eli's soccer shorts.

Speaking of soccer.  Today was Eli's first soccer game.  Supermom didn't go.  Supermom chose to go to curriculum night at Gabe's school instead.  Supermom secured a ride home from the soccer game for Eli and made dinner for Gabe, left it on the counter and figured Gabe would only be home for about 30 minutes alone while mom headed to the curriculum night.  Mom returned at 7:30 and found that Eli wasn't home yet.  Supermom really didn't know where Eli was because he didn't respond to any texts.  Supermom finally found Eli,  put Gabe to bed, started a load of laundry and then left....her two wee little lads home alone on the dark rainy night because mom had some last minute errands to run.

Tomorrow is Gabe's birthday.  His 10th birthday - a big deal.  In an effort to meet every last one of Gabe's birthday requests supermom ran to Subway to get a sandwich to take to him for lunch tomorrow.  Mom told them to put mayo on the sandwich.  Gabe hates mayo.  So mom brings the sandwich home, uses her grubby paws to scrape off the mayo.  Unfortunately, the scraping also removed the lettuce, pickles and olives.  Supermom chops up pickles and olives in very thin subway approved slices, adds mustard and closes up the sandwich hoping he doesn't notice the minimal shreds of lettuce left on the sandwich.

Supermom also made a stop at Safeway to get the kid a cake.  Yes, at 9pm the night before a child's very important 10th birthday supermom is looking for a cake at safeway.  The choices were carrot or german chocolate.  Supermom tells herself that surely at one point Gabe must have requested a german chocolate cake and swoops it up...out from an older man's hands.  Since it is 9pm there is nobody in the bakery to write on the cake, if it is even possible to write on a german chocolate cake, so mom gets those $56 candles that spell out "happy birthday" slaps them on the cake and calls it good.

Supermom also wanted to get Gabe's favorite breakfast pastry, but since breakfast items have long since been depleted from the bakery aisle, mom grabs a box-o-coffee cake mix and after a pleading text from Eli wondering where his mommy has gone, she heads home.

Doesn't sound too much like supermom?  
What makes mom super?
This mom is super because she willingly accepted help.  The dinner I made and left on the counter for the kids was made with love by a dear one who generously made me a ton of freezer meals.  And that birthday treat that is ready for Gabe to take to school....it was picked up by a friend of mine who was at costco and saved me a trip.  The missing Eli?  He was being fed and safely carried from the soccer game in Tacoma to home.
One may think with all that extra help I could have planned a little better for Gabe's birthday.  One may be right, but I didn't.
This mom is super because she problem solved.
This mom is super because she didn't lose her cool.

The kitchen is cleaned so that Gabe can make his birthday feast tomorrow, the presents and cake, however untasty or lame looking it may be, are laid out on the table.  Lunches are prepared, birthday snacks ready for school, clean clothes are ready for tomorrow's dirty adventures, everyone is safely tucked in to bed and that box-o-coffee cake is ready for me to put in the oven in the morning.  
It doesn't matter how I got here, I made it to the end of the day, with help, with grace, and with a whole lot of laughter because really who else sends their 12 year old to school with a pair of black lace unders?

Sep 7, 2014

More = Tears

When we lived in Germany we had AFN (Armed Forces Network) television service.  I think there were nine channels and in lieu of commercials there were public service announcements.   Most of them were depressing: don't kill yourself, don't beat your wife, don't drink and drive, don't say "bomb" at the installation gates, and don't leave your pets on the curb when you move back to the US.  There were also come interesting ones that detailed how to marry a local national, schedule your appointment to make a will, and one that actually saved us, rules for transferring your GI Bill to a Post 9/11 college plan. Since AFN didn't have any recording capabilities like DVR, and rarely had any shows on that I wanted to watch when I was free to watch them, I didn't watch TV much.

When we moved back to the States I was very excited to have more than 9 channels and recording capabilities.  So naturally we bought another TV, subscribed to all 86,000 channels, and digital recording in two rooms.  We were in a digital entertainment disneyland.  But when I think back, I realize I rarely ever watched TV.  I wonder why?

After five months of being without our dish subscription, we just restarted it this past week. We now have 560,000 channels, two Genies, and a remote that you don't even have to point at the box to use.  Woohoo!  I'm excited.

Today I sat down on the couch and attempted to turn on the 49er game.  
I was scrolling through all 560,000 channels trying to find it.
I tried googling "what channel is the 49er game on?"
I remembered I am a Sunday Ticket subscriber so I get all the games...somewhere.
I got out the instruction guide to find what channels the Sunday Ticket is on....59 pages of reading later I find the channel range.
I scroll through all the Ticket games and can't find the one I want, but I know it is on.
Finally I realize it is blacked out on the Ticket but showing on local channels.
Where are my local channels?????
Back to the 59 page "quick guide"...
The game is now half over and I spent the entire first half scrolling through my half a million channels.
I started crying.
No kidding, tears welled up in my eyes.
I just want to watch the football game and I cannot find it in the midst of all these other channels.

Then I remembered why I didn't watch TV last time we had the super dish... I cannot properly use the remote. It isn't because I am doing far more important things that I don't have time to waste by watching TV, it is because I simply am overwhelmed by the TV remote.
Is there a "Firefly" remote for small-minded people who cannot figure out the Genie?
Where is the "page down" button so that I can scroll through 10 channels at a time instead of one by one?
Where is the GAME?
Is there a voice option "find 49er game"?
MAAAAAAAAAAAAATT can you turn on the game for me?

Finally, I got it.
Nobody touch the TV.  
It might send me into a complete nervous breakdown if I have to find this channel again...ever.



Sep 5, 2014

Who Are You?


The beginning of the school year always brings some activity where the boys tell their teacher and/or classmates a little about themselves.
I love reading these!

Here is some of my favorite from Gabe's questionnaire:
People who live with me: Matt, Riss, eli
School would be better if: we had swings
If I had a million dollars I would: build a restaurant
Something I want you to know about me: my family travels a lot
Favorite vacation spot: blank
Favorite tv show: blank
Favorite food: blank
What?  Apparently there were about 10 questions that he deemed too bothersome to answer so he left them blank.  
So disappointing.   
I made him go back and answer a bunch of them.  I was quite irritated that he filled in the favorite vacation spot as "Europe".  Little stinker.
But this does say a lot about him, he doesn't like being pelted with questions about himself, his day, or anything else that he doesn't feel like sharing.

Eli didn't get so lucky as to simply fill out a form, his "all about me" work was in his language arts class.  His teacher required a creative writing piece.

Where I'm From by Eli
I am from baseball games, from books and art
I am from the house that has a forest in the background larger than the others
it sounds like birds chirping and kids playing
I am the vines that go everywhere and the tree that people climb
I am from the beach house on Thanksgiving in Florida every year
I am from the tall woman in the back of the room
From Matt, Riss and Gabe
I am from forgetting important stuff and a traveling family.
From "treat others the way you want to be treated" and "if you don't have nothing nice to say, don't talk at all"
I'm from a church that is like a family of Christians
I'm from Tennessee, Mexico and England, fish and chips and tacos
From the man who is saving lives, the woman teaching others
I am from Clarksville, Tennessee a small house with a big yard
I am from America.

One thing I noticed as I looked over the kids' papers....they both write my name down as Riss.  I wonder if they know my full name?



Sep 4, 2014

First Day of School

Yesterday was the first day of school for us.
We took the obligatory front door photos.

I constantly get comments about how much the boys look alike.
I don't see it.
Maybe my view of them on the outside is skewed by what I know of them on the inside.
Their very different personalities reveal themselves in every aspect of their lives.
Both kids picked out their own outfits for school.
Gabe chose a long sleeve stylish shoody (what he calls a shirt with a hood), layered with a down vest and finished off with hair a la gel and zip up converse (because he is too lazy to tie his shoes).

Eli threw on shorts (no matter what the temperature is) a school t-shirt and school hoody, and his signature Sambas.  He doesn't brush his hair unless it is sticking up straight. He only wears black sambas or chucks. And he would prefer shorts and a hoody to any other articles of clothing at any given point in time.
Eli was more interested in showing school pride and getting to school asap.
G wanted to look handsome.

I opted for white pants because there are only 4 weeks out of the year that I wear white pants.  The first two and the last two...not because I care about that whole "can't wear white after labor day" thing but because these are the only 4 weeks that I don't have students threatening to ruin my clothes!




Sep 2, 2014

Last night was rough for Eli.  I got out of the shower and thought I heard him crying in his room.  One look at his reddened face and I knew disaster must have rocked his world.
I looked around....was something important broken?  Where is is phone?  Did he break his new helicopter?

"What's wrong?"
His voice quivered but he managed to spit out the words "I...Miss...Dad"
He was suddenly, uncontrollably overwhelmed by the absence of his dad. 
5 months rushed in like a wave.
A birthday spent with greetings over FaceTime rather than face-to-face was too much.
And he crumbled.
And I freaked out.

I was in my robe at the time, so I told him I'd be right back and went to my room to get dressed.  
In between jumping into my jammie bottoms and finding a t-shirt, I sent a panicked text to Matt... "please be there....Eli needs you".

Eli didn't want me or need me, he needed dad and since that was not something I could produce I felt completely helpless.  I didn't know what to say, and feared opening my mouth at all would send me into tears.  As I struggled to find the words, I got a text from Matt...he can't call right now, this is on me.
With my phone now in hand, I knew my next step.... I pulled up my blog from earlier that day (the birthday post) and read parts of it to Eli.  And when I was done I looked up at him, he had stopped crying and tears slowly ran down his face.  He was ok.
We spent the next few moments laying on his bed talking about school and ideas to display his baseball cards, prayed and said goodnight.
About a half hour later my phone rang...it was Matt.  I went in to Eli's room and found him hiding under the covers with a flashlight and notepad (note to self - revisit this later) then handed him the phone to talk to his dad.  They talked for a bit and Eli went back to bed, and Matt texted me..."this is why I need to get OUT".

This morning when Eli wasn't in his room I went in to see what he was doing on that notepad...I couldn't find it.  Later, I was passing by my bed and found a note pulled from that notepad and left on my pillow.....
The first page was a note to me thanking me cheering him up and for writing those things about him on my blog.  Included in the note was a $20 bill and a $10 amazon gift card.  On the back was this....






Sep 1, 2014

Happy Birthday E!




This guy is 12 today.  He weighs 109 pounds and is 5'2" and in a few days he starts 7th grade.
He is sweet, has an adorable smile, he is fearless, adventurous, out-going, and just a really fun kid to be with.  
He has aged more in this past year than seems possible.
I hope I never forget the days when he sensed I was stressing out a little and he would look at me with those giant big brown eyes and ask what he could do to help me.  He has done everything I asked and more.  I could not possibly be more proud of how he has helped me and handled this deployment.  His helpfulness, obedience and generally mild temperament made my life so much easier.
This kid misses his dad desperately.
As we traveled this summer I found him regularly aligning himself with father figures, desperate for the attention that he misses from his dad.  Just the other day I overheard him telling his cousin how he missed snuggling with his dad and talking to him about "guy stuff".  
As I look over at him and no longer have to bend down to look into his eyes, I know my sweet baby E is growing up.
I'm so thankful for him, for his heart, his personality, and his love of being with his family.  Playing games together, watching movies as a family, family meals and bedtime prayers are all still so very important to him.  As I watch with pride as he grows into this great young man, I also cling to him so tightly not wanting to let him go!
Eli Eli Oh.



Aug 28, 2014

154 Days

That is how long it has been since we said our goodbyes.
We miss him so much.

E sent an email to Matt (as his mom I have permission to read everything he writes and obviously share it with anyone I deem appropriate) that said this "you know how it feels when you leave the house and feel like you forgot something?  That's how it feels when you are gone".
For a tween boy, he did a pretty good job of summing up how we feel.  Unsettled, slightly off, missing something...someone.

Tomorrow marks 5 months of being gone and 19 years of active duty service in the United States Army.

So proud of his strength and courage during this deployment and his career.  He does his job well, he is a fabulous leader, and an incredible asset to his unit, the Army, and the USA.

Thanks Matt for being part of the .5% willing to serve your country!!


Aug 27, 2014

One Foot in Front of the Other

Walking.
It is a simple act that I typically take for granted.
For some reason over the past few weeks I have noticed people for whom walking is no easy task.
There was a guy in the airport who had some form of disability that kept his knees bent.  He was walking from the security screening area toward his gate.  While most others were fluidly moving through the halls of the airport this man was bouncing up and down, the power that was required to move his feet, one in front of the other was far greater than that required for me to move my own.  I paused and thought about how much more difficult his life must be, at least with regards to getting from point a to b, that it is for me or most of the people I know.
Then there was an older woman in the parking lot, moving slowly to her car.  She shuffled along with the help of a walker.  At some point I am sure she could walk briskly or even run, but time or injury left its mark and now moving was slow and steady.
There was the really large lady who seriously was weightlifting 100 pounds each time she lifted a leg, the person with the turned in foot, the window clerk at the post office...
It is the people who are walking with difficulty, rather than using a wheel chair or hover-round, are the ones that have struck me.  Every time I go out I notice someone who is moving with great effort.
Why?
I don't know.  What is the message?  Why am I suddenly heart broken for people who can't walk with ease?
I have no idea.
This post would be awesome if I had some great conclusion, but I don't.
I prayed for each one as I saw them, maybe that is the point.
I vowed to walk as much, as far, and as strong as I can as long as I can.
I thank the Lord that walking is one of my easier tasks that I accomplish each day.  Maybe I can't paint the fence (ahem) or stuff a duvet into the duvet cover but I can walk and that is one less thing I have to even think about.


Aug 26, 2014

SUP!


This is quite possibly my favorite photo of all my vacation photos.

These ladies and I decided to try Stand Up Paddle Boarding for the first time during our getaway in Florida.
Monday morning, 9am three of us set out on our maiden voyage.  The winds were calm, tide was going nowhere, and there were dozens of dolphins swimming throughout the backwaters where we were paddling.  There were sweet mamas with her little babies, whole pods, solo swimmers fishing and frolicking about.  It was one of the most magical two hours of my life!  It was so quiet out the only sounds we heard were dolphins breaking the surface of the water and our own squeals as they were getting really close to our boards.  Such an amazing experience.

So amazing that we convinced the other two ladies who stayed on shore that day that they needed to join us the following day.

We headed out at 10am on Tuesday, the water was choppy, the winds were gusting, and the tide was pushing us eastward the entire time.  It was a challenge to keep our boards where we wanted them and not crashing against the shoreline.  

After about an hour of making our way through the inter coastal waterway we still had not seen a single dolphin.  Not one!  The day before you couldn't look anywhere around you without seeing them and this day not a single fish, dolphin, jelly fish, or bird in sight!

Things started to go bad on our way back to our dock, the wind was strong and pushed A dangerously close to the shore.  The problem with the shore is that it is loaded with oyster beds.  Razor sharp colonies of oysters.  As A is working her way out of the death zone, I am watching her, start to panic and lose my balance.  I fly off my board, my board heads toward her in the death zone and I start kicking for my life in the opposite direction.  Unfortunately, the board doesn't have a leash so now I am boardless.  Thankfully A is a rockstar and she is working to get herself AND my board out of the rough.  Meanwhile D is over there too, not really sure what was happening with her but she ended up in the water too.  She stayed with her board, hopped back on and we all made our way to the center of the waterway clear of the oyster beds.

I'm kicking my way to the center when I realize my fingers are bleeding.  I have no idea what they were cut on but I had two tiny little cuts on two fingers.  I think this is funny because a few of our ladies are deathly afraid of sharks being in the water so I look to A and say "hahaha I'm bleeding, don't tell the others.  A shark can smell a drop of blood a mile away".  We laugh.

Moments later I look back at D and ask how she is doing after her fall.  She said "ok but I cut up my feet on the oyster beds".  I look and OH MY GOODNESS there is an actual blood trail following her.  I scream "D you are Shark Bait!"  Maybe not the most sensitive comment at the moment.  Once again A saves the day (seriously what is with this girl saving everyone's life? ) and paddles to a closer dock with D and the rest of us head back to our dock with plans to pick them up when we get in.

Wouldn't you know we saw a whole bunch of dolphin families on our way back.  

We made it back safely, pull in our boards, and get instruction on how to get the others' boards back to the rental place and directions to the hospital.  Oyster beds have high amounts of nasty bacteria and it can kill you if you don't get cuts cleaned out and get some antibiotics asap.

Which brings me to the above photo.  We got to the clinic and were greeted by a sweet nurse who loaded D up and willingly took a photo for us.  We were dying laughing, as you can see in the photo.  D was a good sport, and the next 2 hours spent in the clinic were somehow entertaining.  Well, we were entertained in the waiting room while D got a few dozen stitches in her feet.  

Why I love this photo?  I am reminded of so many things when I see it.  Those smiles... we made the best of a potentially horrible, trip ruining situation.  We worked together to accomplish some difficult tasks.  We laughed...and I can't keep from smiling or laughing when I look at this picture.  Love, we love each other enough to make this trip happen.  This trip was filled with long chats, walks on the beach, cooking together, laughing, coffee drinking, sun soaking, book reading....life.  Such a huge blessing! And holy cow I'm so tan!!

Aug 25, 2014

Missing Episode

Yesterday I was tackling one of my most hated tasks around the house.  Not toilet or bathroom cleaning, mowing the lawn or even laundry.  The task I loath is stuffing the duvet into the duvet cover.

As I was wrestling, literally wrestling, with the duvet cover yesterday a thought popped in to my head.  This is a missing I Love Lucy episode.

I can absolutely picture Lucy trying to get her duvet inside the cover and getting all twisted up, perhaps mummified.  Of course Ethel walks in, is scared to death as a mummy version of Lucy is walking toward her screaming "help".  It is all sorted out after Lucy trips over the ottoman and Ethel realizes it isn't a mummy, just her BFF trapped in her duvet.  She pulls Lucy out and the bed gets made just before Desi comes in the front door.

I don't know why I have such a difficult time with this task.  For this reason alone, being a maid in Europe is not an option.

Yesterday's adventure was made even more challenging since I just bought a king size duvet and cover.  Now I have even more fabric to get twisted and tangled into the duvet cover.

This task is usually Matt's.  He can do it one handed, while texting.

I have watched him and considered following his example of "how to stuff a duvet into the cover...the right way", however he uses a method I simply cannot imagine copying.  He holds the corners of the duvet and plunges head-first into the cover.  Here is the problem....I have a serious fear of going head-first into a sleeping bag or duvet cover or anything that resembles something that I could end up getting trapped in.  So, I try and try to stuff that darn duvet in that cover and eventually after breaking out into a full sweat and slightly panicking as I peer into the cover to see what is going wrong, I complete the task.  I'm determined not to have to do it again before Matt gets home.  I'll bribe the kids, or go without a duvet, I cannot submit myself to this torture again....ever.




Aug 22, 2014

Paint the Fence

A few weeks from now marks our second anniversary of living in our home.  We haven't made any improvements.  It was a new house, so there really wasn't anything that needed to be done.  We simply moved in and started to make it our home.
Aside from a few dings in the walls and finger prints along the banister, the house hasn't changed much.  
However, the yard is a totally different story.  Our front yard has been maintained well, the shrubs and flowers are growing, the grass is mostly green and weed free, the side patch struggles a little more but is presentable, and the back yard is a complete disaster.  Think repo yard.  That's what we have going on here.
Not only is the grass, if there is any left there, completely brown,  and the weeds overgrown and deadly to a bare foot, but there is not a single flower, plant or tree back there to break up the boxy ugliness. And the fence....oh dear the fence was not painted, sealed, or stained and has turned a fabulous shade of ugly grey.
I decided that the backyard overhaul was not something I wanted to embrace this summer but the fence does desperately need attention to prevent it from being the ugly thing that it was and from rotting to death, falling over, and revealing to all of creation our ugly back yard.
So paint the fence.
Easy right?
No.  Not easy.  At least for this paintarded person, it was not an easy task.  
I bought the stain and sealer, some magical applicator wands that the Lowes lady said would make the task so easy, and I headed home to tackle the beast.
2 minutes in to the project the first magical wand broke, the second magical wand didn't fit properly in the bucket of stain which caused some momentary chaos until I could problem solve, and then to polish off my handyman moment the existing magical wand was dumping so much stain/sealer on the ground that I actually sealed my decorative rock for all eternity.  The rocks are now shiny with a golden honey hue.
I race back to Lowes.  Livid.  This was supposed to be a 1 trip job.  And here I am back at the store in the first 10 minutes.  I consult my parental units to talk me down off the painter's ledge and I get back home with a roller, a tray, and a tiny element of calm.
I paint.
I paint the fence, a little rock, a lot of my hands and arms, a little of my legs and seriously...who paints their face?  Me.
As I finished the first side of my fence line I realize.  I don't have enough paint for this.  I should have enough paint.  A 5 gallon bucket should cover 1200 - 1400 sqft.  HA!  Not with me at the other end of the roller.
I press on, determined to get as far as possible to avoid cleaning up the supplies more than once.  As I roll, and splash this sticky gunk all over me, I think my cousin Mike would have a heart attack if he saw this disaster taking place, and my mom would have snatched that roller out of my hands 5 minutes in, then finished the job with the existing paint while I was still cleaning the crap off my feet.
I ran out of paint with 360 sqft left undone. 
I laugh.  That should be just one more gallon, if I were operating at the semi-professional scale obviously required to get that kind of coverage, but to be safe I get two more gallons turning this in to a 3 trip job.
I leave one gallon in the van, so I can easily return it when I don't need it.  (Chuckle chuckle)
I return to the job, paint away, and hey what do you know I have 6ft of fence that shall forever and ever until that hunk a fence falls over be left unstained. Short of stain to finish 6ft of fence. 
That's how I roll.
Literally, I roll so bad that I used 7 gallons of paint and still didn't finish the job.  
I then spent about 2 hours scrubbing my skin and nails attempting to get the stain off.  I give up, paint my nails pink, and decide the honey gold stain just makes me look tan in some places...in a very splattered way.